Previous studies have demonstrated that the molecular and structural composition of the extracellular matrix (ECM) shows regional differences in the central nervous system. By using histochemical and immunohistochemical methods, we provide here a detailed map of the distribution of ECM molecules in the vestibular nuclear complex (VNC) of the rat. We have observed common characteristics of the ECM staining pattern in the VNC and a number of differences among the individual vestibular nuclei and their subdivisions. The perineuronal net (PNN), which is the pericellular condensation of ECM, showed the most intense staining for hyaluronan, aggrecan, brevican and tenascin-R in the superior, lateral and medial vestibular nuclei, whereas the HAPLN1 link protein and the neurocan exhibited moderate staining intensity. The rostral part of the descending vestibular nucleus (DVN) presented a similar staining pattern in the PNN, with the exception of brevican, which was negative. The caudal part of the DVN had the weakest staining for all ECM molecules in the PNN. Throughout the VNC, versican staining in the PNN, when present, was distinctive due to its punctuate appearance. The neuropil also exhibited heterogeneity among the individual vestibular nuclei in ECM staining pattern and intensity. We find that the heterogeneous distribution of ECM molecules is associated in many cases with the variable cytoarchitecture and hodological organization of the vestibular nuclei, and propose that differences in the ECM composition may be related to specific neuronal functions associated with gaze and posture control and vestibular compensation.
- Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans
- Link protein
- Perineuronal net
- Vestibular system
ASJC Scopus subject areas